Burns and scalds

Every year almost 1000 children in NSW under five present to hospital with serious burn injuries. More than half of these burns happen in the kitchen, while most other burns happen in other places around the house, the backyard, and places of sport and recreation (Australian Burns Injury Service ACI, 2017).

Common causes of burns in children include hot food and drinks, kitchen appliances, heaters, irons, treadmills and barbeques. Spilled hot soup, noodles, tea and coffee can take less than a second to cause a serious burn.

Children’s skin burns deeper, quicker and at lower temperatures compared to adults. Families suffer guilt and blame, while children usually suffer with pain and scarring that can lead to body image and self-esteem problems.

How you can prevent scalds in children:

  • Supervise young children at all times when they are in or around the kitchen and bathroom
  • Keep hot foods and drinks and all kitchen appliances out of reach of young children
  • Take care when serving or walking with hot drinks when young children are around
  • Check the temperature of the water before putting a young child in the bath.

How you can prevent other common burns in children:

  • Keep all electrical equipment which heat up out of reach of children, including heaters, kettles, irons and hair straiteners. Unplug after use and store away 
  • Install a heat resistant guard around heaters or fireplaces and secure it to the wall or floor
  • Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or where children can't reach them
  • Only use a treadmill when young children are not in the room, install a safety guard around it and unplug after use
  • Install smoke alarms on all levels of your home and close to bedrooms
  • Closely supervise children around barbeques and do not use flammable liquids
  • Always supervise children near a campfire
  • Do not throw aerosols into a campfire or add accelerants of any type.

If your child has suffered a burn:

  • Use cool running water on the burn for exactly 20 minutes
  • Remove clothing and jewellery, if possible
  • Call 000 (Triple Zero) or seek medical help if you are unsure or concerned
  • Never use ice, iced water, cream, gel, toothpaste or butter on a burn as they can make the burn worse.

Note: Using cool water for 20 minutes is effective within 3 hours of the burn incident.

Free online module on burns first aid 

Click HERE to complete a FREE online e-learning module to give you knowledge on how to perform correct first aid for common types of burns including scalds, flame, friction, electrical and chemical burns.

Detailed safety fact sheets

For detailed information on how to prevent common burns in children, refer to our Related Fact sheets on the side menu of this page.

Burns prevention in schools

For information and posters developed for schools aimed at preventing burn injuries in the school environment, please visit the burns resources for schools page.